Flu Season Arrives in Northern California

SACRAMENTO -- Influenza cases are on the rise in Northern California, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Doctors are urging people to get vaccinated. Even those who are young and otherwise healthy are vulnerable to the flu virus.

"We do see a lot of young people that die from influenza, probably because they've never had an influenza vaccination and never lived through an epidemic. So they have no pre-existing immunity," explained Dr. Brett Laurence, a Sutter infectious disease physician.

CDC statistics attribute 80,000 U.S. deaths last season to the flu. Doctors say this year's most prevalent strain of influenza appears to be milder than last season's, but any strain of the flu can make a person very sick.

"It has a very sudden onset with fever, chills, muscle aches and respiratory symptoms," said Dr. Dean Blumberg, chief of pediatric infectious diseases at UC Davis Children's Hospital.

"It's sort of that idea of you got hit by a truck and just don't want to get out of bed," said Dr. Laurence.

Doctors emphasize the flu vaccine is proven to be effective.

"And even if you get break-through illness, if you've been vaccinated your disease will be milder and you'll have more rapid recovery," Dr. Blumberg said.

During flu season, every-day common sense hygiene, such as hand washing, can be life-saving.

"Alcohol-based hand sanitizers are just as good," Dr. Laurence said. "You know, sort of that cough etiquette. You want to cover your mouth, cover it with a tissue, cover it with your arm."

"And if you are sick, try not to be around people," advised Dr. Blumberg. "So don't try to tough it out. Don't go to work or school because you're just going to spread it around and your colleagues are not going to like you."

If you do have flu symptoms, medical experts recommend seeing a doctor within the first 48 hours because medicine that can limit existing flu symptoms and duration is most effective when taken soon after symptoms arise.